Two weekends ago I participated in a benefit ride to support Ride 2 Recovery. It’s easy to forget the joys of riding with a group. It’s a chance to meet new people, share stories and receive encouragement when the wind blows in every direction or the hills won’t let up. When riding in events, it’s normal for me to start off riding alone, and finish surrounded by new friends.
Three weeks ago I learned about Ride 2 Recovery. The organization brings wounded active military and retired veterans together to ride bikes, share stories, and heal. They also outfit these riders with bikes, and build custom cycles for riders with special needs.
The ride I participated in was the last leg of a trek across parts of Texas in the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge. Cyclists started in San Antonio, rode through Austin and finished in Fort Worth. Texas weather was not kind along the way, but they triumphed.
The Ride 2 Recovery cyclists arrived in Ft. Worth April 13th. April 14th, the group joined local riders for the Bell Helicopter Honor Ride – Clay Hunt, which made up the final leg of the 385 mile Texas Challenge.
I rode the 50 mile course of the Honor Ride. The course was windy and hilly. Every time we turned a corner wehad a head wind, but the challenging conditions gave us all something to comiserate over. The fuel stations were full of food, water and friendly faces. The roads were well marked thanks to the event staff, and traffic was managed by our motorcycle escorts.
I talked with event supporters, Ride 2 Recovery participants, and veteran motorcyclists about the event. It was a memorable day, and I’ll share their stories over the next week or two. If you’re ever find yourself near a Ride 2 Recovery event or Honor Ride, I encourage you to show up and ride, or show up to cheer. The first story I have to share is the last story from my ride. I met Sgt. Norma Laing at the final rest stop in front of Macy’s at Ridgmar Mall in Ft. Worth, TX.
A big thanks, by the way, to the friendly Macy’s employees at Ridgmar Mall. They’re cheering and waving not only pointed our group in the right direction, but fed us all of the Lara Bars, oranges and water we could consume.
After I interviewed Sgt. Laing, I stuck with her for the rest of the ride. She was excellent company. (Norma, email me if you read this!) Now, on to her story:
Tell me about the ride. I heard you had bad weather:
On Wednesday we were going to Killeen, Ft. Hood. And we had everything, rain, it was cold. We had a 30 degree drop in temperature. There was sleet, we had everything except lightening to take us off the bikes. Texas threw a lot at us.
Through all of that bad weather you kept riding?
We stayed on. We went through two schools, a couple of ride-byes, and a couple of assemblies. The kids were great. They came out in the rain and were screaming and were waving their banners. They were in good spirits and that put us in good spirits. We bundled up and made it to lunch. Half of us were shivering because we couldn’t feel parts of our bodies.
I bet your toes were numb.
Toes? What, what are toes? Arms, legs, after they thawed out in the shower I was surprised to could feel them again!
It was a real experience. Our founder, John Warden, said that this was going to go down as one of the five worst days for Ride 2 Recovery. I was told Texas always throws a loop-de-loop, and it sure did.
(Sgt. Laing later told me that this is what the ride is about, getting through challenges together.)
Is this your first ride?
This is actually my second ride. I did the Gulf Coast Challenge that started in Louisiana and ended in Tallahassee last month. This month I’m doing this one, and I’m hoping to make it to the Memorial Day challenge. It starts in D.C. and goes to Virginia Beach. [The ride] will be beautiful, and it’s going to be patriotic. There are going to be flags everywhere.
So how has your training been? You’ve ridden a lot of miles to get here. How did you prepare?
Our WTU, I’m in a Warrior Transition Unit, I’ve actually been wounded, they asked us to do two days of outdoor cycling, which is what I do. And then two days of some other activity, so I do Spinning for two days.
Do you listen to music when you train?
(Laughs) We aren’t supposed to, but
You DO! You have to, right? It keeps your tempo up.
You have to sometimes! You can’t help it.
I’ll look for Sgt. Laing in the Ride 2 Recovery photos during the Memorial Day Challenge. If you are in the D.C. area, show up and cheer these men and women on.
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